Assateague “Ponies” (Equua caballus)
The mystery remains just that as to how these unique and gorgeous ponies arrived on the Assateague seashore. Folklore has it that they swam onto the shore after a Spanish shipwreck during the 16th century. Others believe they immigrated by Colonial Virginia farmers to graze on the island after the legislature enacted laws requiring fencing and levied taxes on all livestock due to crop damage caused by free-roaming farm animals. In either instance, they survived in and adapted to their environment in just the ways needed to flourish until today.
Assateague ponies (Equua caballus) are a unique breed that is almost as big as horses. Scientists do not actually consider them to be a true pony, actually taking their heritage from the equine family. Still though, natives to the Assateague Islands have always referred to these feral horses as "ponies" and this designation has stuck throughout the years. While the original version of the horses was usually solid in color, over the years of breeding, their patterning and colors have co-mingled and expanded.
Taxonomy Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Mammalia (Taxon entry)
Species Equus caballus
Common name Horse
Synonyms Equus caballus caballus, Equus ferus caballus
(AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Logevity Database)
“Assateague Island National Seashore has a combined total of over 300 wild ponies in Maryland and Virginia” (AssateagueIsland.com). There is fence that provides a partition between Maryland and Virginia on the island and splits the group into two, about equal groups. They usually break...
... middle of paper ...
... consists of salt marsh grass. They will also drink salt water, but they will find fresh water throughout the island. Because of the salt consumption, they often look more bloated or fatter than a domestic horse. Their diet consists of seaweed, rosehips bayberry twigs and even poison ivy, as well.
There are no known natural predators of the Assateague pony. The only real threat they encounter is human. Though there are rules and regulations about human interactions with the ponies, Assateague Island has become a tourist attraction. Some tourists feed the ponies’ unhealthy food, which attracts the ponies to the road where they can be hit by cars. They are not afraid of people and are known to walk right up to people on the beach. Although beautiful, it is best to treat them as wild, feral animals to avoid injury as they are known to bite or kick without warning.